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Colors and Meanings of Lent Candles

Sally Painter
Lent Candles

There are several Christian practices of the colors and meanings for using Lent candles. You can use these three candle colors similar to an advent wreath, but used in a holder the form of a cross.

Lent Candle Colors and Meanings

The candle color combinations used for Lent often depend on individual practices. Some use only two colors (purple and rose) while others use three colors (purple, red or rose/white). Each color has a religious meaning.

Purple

The liturgical color for Lent season is purple. It is the symbol for penance. It also represents the preparation followers practice during Lent season and the sacrifice of the Christ.

Rose

Rose is the symbol of anticipation of the rejoicing to follow when the Christ is resurrected from the dead on Easter Sunday. The rose candle is traditionally lit on the four Sunday of Lent- Laetare Sunday. Laetare is Latin and means to rejoice.

Red

The symbol for passion, blood, and fire, red is assigned to Palm Sunday (Sunday before Easter), Good Friday (Friday before Easter Sunday), and Christ's passion. It also represents the Holy Spirit.

White

The symbol of purity, light, joy and glory, white is also a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead.

How Lent Candle Are Used

There are two ways that candles are used during Lent. Each use a holder capable of supporting six to seven candles.

Lenten Cross

Lenten Cross

Some people place five purple candles in taper holders that are part of a Lenten wooden cross. A rose-colored candle is placed in the center of the cross to represent the Christ. Occasionally a white candle is used instead.

Religious Significance

According to Lacy at Catholic Icing, a Lenten cross is to Lent what an Advent wreath is to Advent. The two have very similar Christian significance or in the case of the Lenten cross, Catholic significance.

  • There are six taper candles - one for every Sunday before Easter, five purple and one rose.
  • The candles for Lent are placed in a cross form, whereas the Advent candles are placed within a table wreath.
  • Lacy states it's tradition to make the Lenten cross from your Christmas tree in what she calls Lincoln Log style.

Order of Lighting Candles

Taper candles are placed in the candle holder with the rose candle placed in the center of the cross.

  • On the first Sunday of Lent, one candle is lit (top of cross) and extinguished after devotional.
  • The following Sunday, a new purple candle is lit (one on end of T) along with the first one and both are allowed to burn until extinguished.
  • The third Sunday, another new candle (other end of T) is lit along with the previous two and so on.
  • On the fourth Sunday (Laetare Sunday), the rose candle (center of the cross) is lit along with the other three.
  • You will continue this succession until Palm Sunday, when the last candle is lit and all candles with it.
  • Some people prefer to light a red candle on Palm Sunday, the last Sunday before Easter Sunday along with all of the candles.

Lenten Triad

Those using a Lenten triad also use six candles. A foam or wood triangle shape is covered with a black cloth.

  • The triad is a symbol of the Holy Trinty - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • The black cloth is a symbol of grief.
  • Two candles are placed in holders on each side of the triangle.
  • A rose candle is placed in the fourth holder.

Lenten Candle Readings

During the lighting of your Lenten cross or triad, you may wish to include an appropriate Bible reading for a devotional.

Philippians 3:10-11

You may find Philippians 3:10-11… "I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings..."

Psalm 95

You may prefer reading Psalm 95, "Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation…"

Making Lent Candle Lighting a Family Tradition

If your family doesn't have a Lenten candle lighting ritual, you can decide from these two forms which you wish to follow. Establishing a religious tradition is a great way to reinforce and build your faith and strengthen your family unit in Christ.

Colors and Meanings of Lent Candles